Watercress Salad

Kureson Sarada クレソンのサラダ

Watercress was originally introduced to Japan in the 1870s and first called oranda garashi (Dutch mustard). These days it is generally referred to as kureson (from the French cresson).  In recent years this semi-aquatic plant has gained popularity, and is now found in soups or as a boiled and seasoned side dish. Thanks to cultivation and the growing benefits of slightly alkaline water, Japanese watercress has become a milder variety that many children enjoy. Children living in the countryside are often surprised to learn that this plant grows wild in many of the nearby mountain streams. Often, during spring field trips children wade knee high in icy spring runoff to gather bunches to take home or cook in the classroom. It is best when eaten in the late spring before it flowers and becomes bitter. This slightly spicy and vinegary dish helps to cleanse the palette from the richer components to this school lunch.

Ingredients:

3 bunches watercress
Bonito flakes or sesame seeds for garnish

Dressing:

¼ cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
¼ cup mirin
2 teaspoons sugar

Directions:

          Make the dressing: combine the vinegar, soy sauce, mirin, and sugar in a bowl. Cool in refrigerator for later.

          Cut the watercress into 3-4 cm-long pieces. Divide the stem and leaf sections.

          Boil the stem parts first, and then add the leaves. Be careful not to overcook. Drain and chill the greens in cold water. Drain again and squeeze out excess water.

          Add the watercress to the dressing and mix. Cool in refrigerator for about 10 minutes.

          Serve and pour the remaining dressing over the top. Garnish with bonito flakes.